Meme Wars – the creative destruction of neo-classical economics

Meme Wars - the creative destruction of neo-classical economics

Looks like there’s a new book out that wants to revolutionalize economics with the hope that one day we can transform currently existing capitalism. Big wish but if we do not aim high where else are we going… more environmental degradation, more financial crises that favour the rich and the multinationals, more hyper consumerism that takes us towards self destruction.

Kalle Lasn, the author of Meme Wars and an important figure in the Occupy movement, wants to inspire a new type of economics that goes beyond the faux-rationalism of the old one and puts humans and the environment in its centre. He acknolwedges that his ideas aren’t new and he’s happy to build on existing alternative economics thinking.

“Lasn sees three problems with conventional economics teaching. First: orthodox or neo-classical economics has brought the world to the brink of financial ruin. Second: by fostering a consumer culture, it has turned humanity into a selfish, anxious race. Third: it fetishises economic growth – even though this growth is ultimately destructive, since it both makes us unhappy and wreaks unsustainable havoc on the planet’s natural resources. “This is one of the most fatal flaws in neo-classical economics,” says Lasn, in a delicate Estonian lilt that belies the passion of his argument. “We cannot keep on selling off our natural capital and calling it income. It’s the most stupid mistake of all … When they measure growth, they don’t measure real progress.”

The path he lays out isn’t revolutionary in the sense that it does not involve throwing away capitalism, but it does involve creative subversion and the development of an alternative vision, perhaps based on a steady-state economy and measuring wealth and happiness differently. The task has never been bigger… from trying to shift governments, corporations or general consumerist culture, to attempting to reverse the civilizational logic that underpins the machinations of our most basic societal structures… but the stakes have never been higher either, from devastating international economic malaise to approaching a tipping point with the environment from biodiversity, to global warming, to water and energy, to pollution.

I might put this on my summer reading list.

Kalle Lasn – review of Meme Wars in the Guardian

vampire squid from hell :)

vampire squid from hell :)

So cute, isn’t it?

Thank you ABC Science for this awesome photo and description of a truly unique species.

This is the vampire squid from hell or Vampyroteuthis infernalis which feeds on decaying bodies in the great depth of 600-900m in temperate and tropical oceans. It’s so unique that it also has its own branch of the taxonomic tree; half octopus, half squid.

The creature is not particularly huge at 13cm but it has huge eyes to detect any moving objects and has dark blue bioluminescence against predators. It entirely feeds on dead bodies that drop to the ocean floor, it’s the quiet yet amazing looking sweeper of debris.

This cephalopod has sticky filaments that it uses to snare in small morsels, stick them together with a glue like substance then bring the parcel to the mouth. Ie it makes its own deep-ocean cake pop.

Sad to think that biodiversity is shrinking at such a pace that we are going to lose many many unique species such as this one, some even before we get to discover them… but for now, let’s revel in the mind-blowing uniqueness of this awesome little vampire.

‘Squid from Hell’ secrets revealed

Pollination and the magic of life…

Pollination and the magic of life...

Look here for a sense of wonder! 🙂

In the TED talk “The hidden beauty of pollination” Louie Schwartzberg says:
“Nothing lasts forever, everything in the universe wears out. And that blew my mind. Because I realised that Nature had invented reproduction as a mechanism for life to move forward. As a life-force that passes right through us and makes us a link in the evolution of life”

His is a talk on the ‘mystical moment where life regenerates itself again and again’… pollination. As bees around the world are in danger our attention is drawn to the crucial and magical process of pollination. Most of it is managed by insects, especially bees, but birds and bats are also involved. There are some breathtaking visuals here…

The hidden beauty of pollination

Naomi Oreskes and global warming

Naomi Oreskes and global warming

I almost never use this word, but this time it’s apt… Naomi Oreskes is my hero. She’s a historian of science who wrote ‘Merchants of Doubt’ (together with Erik M Conway), a wonderfully detailed book that builds evidence against a small set of scientists who have decided to take money from private industries and use their authority (or sham authority) to systematically saw the seeds of doubt about scientific evidence in relation to global warming. These same scientists historically have done the same about cigarette smoking and acid rain as well, the global warming ‘skepticism’ is just another round of the same game of paid denialism.

Here’s a video of Naomi Oreskes confronting Senator Nick Minchin (who was Minister for Industry, Science and Resources 1998-2001) who is still clinging to the notion that global warming is not caused by human activity.

I have previously blogged on Merchants of Doubt, you can look it up here under ‘science and technology’.

Here’s another one where Oreskes explores the scientific consensus behind IPCC documents…

Floods, mold and La Nina

Floods, mold and La Nina

Well, here in Sydney we didn’t have much of a summer. In fact it’s been the coldest in 40 years and the wettest in 20.

Towns around NSW, and Victoria and Canberra, are flooding. From Cooma to Silverton water is everywhere and people are being evacuated. Poor bastards, must be pretty hard going.

We are in yet another La Nina year. This means that the Southern Oscillation Index is tilted in the warm/wet direction. The hot air current take up lots more moisture from the oceans and therefore there’s more humidity and rain.

After many years of drought this is good news in a way, but of course too much rain is bad for both agriculture and residents. However, this is good news for the red centre of Australia which is blooming and green!

Here in Sydney though we have crazy amounts of humidity and rain and even in a new airy apartment such as mine the walls and cabinets are going moldy. I spent more than a week unpacking my cupboards of clothes and items, trying to get the mold off each and every one. Next will be the walls. If my apartment is moldy, that means most apartments in Sydney are also. My lungs are not taking well to any of this and I’m suffering really bad asthma.

Looks like long-term climate change in NSW might just be like this: more humidity, more rain. I guess I’d better get an air conditioner for next year…